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Rodoni's conflict


On a host of issues, such as gun control and environmental regulation, we've disagreed with 2nd District County Supervisor Roger Rodoni, a bedrock conservative. But we've always respected him. He doesn't equivocate. He doesn't manipulate. He speaks his mind and that's that, end of story. If the 62-year-old with a silver goatee is unyielding and uncompromising at times, even close-minded, he's nonetheless always struck us as a man of rough-hewn principle, the embodiment of a straight-shooter.

He's also, of course, old Humboldt through and through, which in his case means he's always had close ties to the Pacific Lumber Co. He was born in Scotia at the company hospital. His father did odd jobs for PL and ran a 20-cow dairy in Stafford. Five years after the 1964 flood tore his family's house, barn and much of their land up by the roots, Rodoni moved out to some logged over PL land in southern Humboldt and started a ranching operation. He was the tenant, PL was his landlord. The arrangement continues to this day.

Nothing wrong with that. Except these days Rodoni is a politician who sometimes votes on matters pertaining to PL. The latest example was in March, when Rodoni voted to nix District Attorney Paul Gallegos' request for outside legal help in his controversial fraud lawsuit against the logging company. One day after the company made public a letter from one of its lawyers claiming the case had no merit, there was Supervisor Rodoni, at a stormy, jampacked Board of Supervisors meeting, publicly blasting the DA's lawsuit -- and implicitly defending his landlord. He derisively wondered if the Bay Area lawyer Gallegos wanted the county to hire, Joe Cotchett, would want a park named after him if the case proved successful -- a remark that drew some laughs from the PL timber workers in the audience. To those who had the temerity to argue that he shouldn't be voting because he had a conflict of interest, Rodoni brandished some papers from the Fair Political Practices Commission that he said exonerated him. It was an old Humboldt performance all right, of the brazen variety.

Whether he actually has been exonerated is unclear; there have been conflicting press accounts of late about whether Rodoni is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FPPC, a state agency charged with overseeing conflict-of-interest laws. At issue, evidently, is whether the rent Rodoni pays to PL for the property ($4,200 per year, or $350 per month, for several thousand acres of land and a ranch house) is fair market value.

Obviously, that seems ridiculously low -- try finding a one-bedroom apartment, let alone a house, for $350 a month anywhere in Humboldt. But while Rodoni's rent may be important to the FPPC, we don't think it's relevant. What's relevant is that PL is Rodoni's landlord. We wouldn't allow any reporter at our newspaper to cover a story that involved their landlord. Similarly, Rodoni ought not to vote on issues that involve his. It's not proper and it's not professional. End of story.



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